"The world's coming to an end," my great-grandmother screamed. Earlier that day, screens had been installed on some of the windows. This was an innovation in rural Indiana at that time, and she had never looked through a screen before. What she had seen as she looked out the window that evening was a cross on the moon. Surely this was a sign that the end of the world had come!
She ran outside, announcing the vision and calling her husband to come and help her get onto the roof and to join her there. She felt, as many other religious people did, that being on the rooftop ensured that they would not be destroyed with the world, but would be carried up into heaven.
When she looked at the moon again, however, there was no cross on it. Before long they realized, to her immense relief, that the way she had looked through the new window screen had created the illusion of a cross.
My father would tell me this story about his grandmother almost every time there was some prophecy in the news of the world coming to an end at such and such a time. It served to destroy a superstitious fear that everything I knew could suddenly come to an end in a mysterious way.
As I matured and understood the Bible better, I learned that God, good, is everlasting, and that there is no beginning or end of the source of all that is good. Fears of loss, even loss of life, diminish as we realize that whatever is real and good has neither a beginning nor an end and is permanent.
Some physical scientists doubt that the big bang was the beginning of the universe, or even that there was a beginning and therefore an ending. Paul Steinhardt, a Princeton University physicist, has developed a new theory called the Cyclic Model. This theory allows "no cosmic Armageddon," according to a Newhouse News Service report last month, but rather a series of universes that would go on forever. "This assumes that time has no beginning," says Steinhardt, "or at least that the big bang is not the beginning of the universe."
While it is interesting to understand something of the theories physical science proposes concerning the beginning and end of the universe, the question is more a metaphysical one. Understanding that God is eternal, that is, without beginning or end, does indeed begin to free us from the tyranny of an endtime.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, made a clear distinction between time and eternity. She encouraged her followers to better understand eternal truths and live by them, instead of by the ticking of clocks. In the textbook of Christian Science, she wrote concerning time and eternity: "One ceases in proportion as the other is recognized. Time is finite; eternity is forever infinite" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pages 468-469).
We cannot begin too soon to live by the fact that existence is without end.
One day I smiled as I overheard our young daughter saying to a friend, "It won't make the world come to an end." I realized she was repeating something I frequently say when attempting to minimize some unfortunate happening or when things are not working out just the way I had planned. It is a joy to know that nothing can make the real good of this world come to an end because it reflects the God that is forever without beginning or end.
Beloved, be not ignorant
of this one thing,
that one day is with the Lord
as a thousand years,
and a thousand years
as one day.
II Peter 3:8